2017 was the first year in my (nine!!) years of blogging that I experienced a true wobble – where I had more than just the odd fleeting thought about giving it all up, where I seriously considered living my life without sharing it on the internet (I know!! What would that even look like??) and where I spent a great deal of my time and energy worrying about the direction and future of my online space.
I’ve had times in the past of course where I’ve felt a little lost with where the blog is going – confused as to whether it should be work or pleasure, worried about where it fits and struggling with how to keep up in this new professional blogosphere we find ourselves. But usually those worries and doubts are short lived and I always seem to find myself continuing on regardless. Going back to the heart of the blog and my first love – writing. Once I allow myself time to get words on a page and let the creativity flow, within a short while the self doubt is gone and I’m enjoying the act of recording online again. I’ve always used this blog as an online diary of sorts, and I really do adore having a space to record little snippets of my life, so giving it up completely has never really been a consideration.
Last year was different. I lost something. Something that made this blog what it was, something that made me enjoy curating it, something that made me want to continue. I lost my passion for it, I lost the drive that made me sit down and write/create regardless of what else was going on in life, I lost whatever spark was within me that made me enjoy writing and photographing and styling and spilling my heart out on the internet.
When I re-evaluated my blog at the start of this new year, I realised that for the previous 12 months or so blogging had become a chore. A task that if I was truly honest with myself I no longer had time for (at least the type of posts I wanted to produce) yet was forcing myself to make time for. I had been pushing myself to utilise the tiny amount of spare time I got each day to write something, photograph anything, update at least one social media channel. But because my heart wasn’t in it, because inevitably those short windows of time did not coincide with my most creative thoughts, I ended up with content I wasn’t hugely proud of, with content I knew could be better, and with content I knew just wouldn’t cut it in today’s blogosphere. As such I spent the majority of my days stressed, anxious and forever chasing my tail. Not fully enjoying my days as a Mum because I had one eye on my emails and was constantly thinking about when I might manage to complete that blog post I’d started days previously, and not fully enjoying my time working because of the niggling guilt that I should be with my daughter.
In many ways though, last year was a more successful blog year than I imagined it would be. Having decided to take a break towards the end of my pregnancy and after E was born, I certainly wasn’t expecting to be blogging in any more than a personal capacity for most of latter part of the year, but yet the brand projects and collaborations continued to roll in without me chasing them. I continued to make a steady (albeit modest) income from my internet space and managed, somehow, to keep posting in a fairly regular fashion. I managed to hold it all together (despite feeling like I was doing anything but behind the scenes) and I guess I’d have to chalk that down as a success. However in other ways, the blog took a few huge steps back (expected but no less difficult to deal with) in 2017. My readership went down during those months the blog lay dormant (of course) and I struggled to get it back up once I returned. Perhaps my new life and inevitable change in content wasn’t as appealing to everyone (understandable) and without the time or means to focus on all of the subject matters I previously had done, I lost a few people along the way. My social media channels (particularly Instagram) took a HUGE hit, which after spending so long trying to build them up, was tough to swallow. My baking club had to be put on hold, and despite still having plenty of ideas and ambitions, I just couldn’t seem to find the time to realise any of them.
I mean it’s fairly obvious why last year should prove to be the year that made me reconsider my blogging life. My life changed exponentially last year. Everything in my world is now different.
Last year, I became a Mum.
My work/life balance is now completely skewed. My priorities in life are shifted, my motivation for getting up in the morning changed, my goals and vision of the future now looks very different. The things that previously made me happy no longer do, the activities that make up my daily life are entirely focused around my daughter rather than myself and the thoughts that consume me most days are things that I couldn’t have imagined worrying about a year ago.
My everyday is unrecognisable. Most days, I’m unrecognisable.
The person I used to be feels like an old friend, someone I used to know but have lost touch with, someone I’m not sure I’ll ever reconnect with. And in her place is someone new – someone for whom work and blogging isn’t all that important anymore, someone who no longer considers goals which can benefit herself but only goals which can benefit her daughter and family life. Someone who used to take pleasure in putting outfits together but now spends most days in the least dirty pair of jeans from the pile and the first T-shirt that comes to hand knowing it will be filthy in seconds. Someone who used to take pride in her appearance but is now happy if her hair gets washed twice a week. Someone who used to be creative but now feels like her brain is at capacity if she remembers all the words to the nursery rhymes at playgroup.
Someone, who ultimately, has changed.
And I think that is at the heart of why I struggled last year. Because instead of embracing that change on my blog too and running with it, I fought it. I tried to pretend things hadn’t changed, to continue being the person I’d previously been, continue working in the way I’d previously worked and continue writing about the subjects I’d previously written about.
Everything in my life had changed. And yet, the space that had always grown as I grew, hadn’t changed alongside it.
I was trying so hard to continue blogging in the way I always had, I hadn’t stopped to consider that writing about things that were no longer relevant to me, was a sure fire way to drive this blog into obscurity and lose all motivation for curating it.
So yeah, it took a back seat. When I think about it now, I can see so clearly why it didn’t continue to prosper alongside my new life, why I fell out of love with it. But at the time, I just felt like I was failing. Failing at managing to juggle it all, like so many other parents do and beating myself up when I couldn’t seem to make time for both work and Evie on any given day.
I guess if we get down to the nitty gritty, you could say there were five main contributing factors which led to me falling out of love with my blog;
A complete change in lifestyle
The first one being the change in lifestyle that I’ve already described. Becoming a Mum led me to discover a new part of myself, and although it happened slowly over time, that new part of me soon became all of me.
At first I fought to retain my sense of self. I clung on to that person I used to be and tried my hardest to slot back in to the mould that used to feel recognisable. But I never quite fit anymore, and there was always something about attempting to make it happen that felt awkward. As if I was trying to go backwards when I should be moving forwards.
Despite how it might sound though, I’m not upset about this new person I’ve become. Sure, some days I miss the old me. I miss getting excited about wearing nice clothes, I miss having the freedom to spend a Saturday shopping, or baking, or writing or seeing friends. I miss having time for hobbies and interests that are just for me. I miss travelling freely without feeling like I’ve left my heart elsewhere. I miss spending a whole day in London doing exciting work things and staying out late to meet old colleagues for cocktails. I miss just being me, first and foremost, and putting myself first every so often (as selfish as that sounds).
It’s been a big adjustment, and still is, to get used to the new person who stares back at me from the mirror. To become ok with my title of ‘Mum’ coming above all else.
But, although I’m not quite there every day, I know that my life is so much richer now than it ever was before, and that even if I don’t always recognise this nursery rhyme singing, baby talking, no make up wearing person that I am today, I know that she’s a happier and more fulfilled person overall.
Because I love being a Mum.
It’s harder than anything I’ve ever done, it’s exhausting, it’s heart-wrenching and it’s unbearable at times. Days are long and tiring and leave me in a messy puddle of tears sometimes. But I really do LOVE it. I feel so lucky to be a Mum, and so lucky to be Evie’s Mum. She really is the most wonderful gift of a human being and more of a character than I could have ever dreamed her to be. Every second with her brings me so much joy.
And (before I digress too much and make this a post about motherhood rather than the direction of my blog) I think that’s what marks the difference in my feelings about blogging (and work in general). Being with Evie brings me so much joy and happiness that everything else pails in comparison. Spending my time doing anything else other than watching her laugh and grow and learn is no longer time well spent for me. The spark and passion and drive I used to have for this blog and my work, is now entirely centred around her. Her happiness, her well being, her everyday. There is nothing in this world that can bring me more joy than having her clamber over me with that huge smile and wrap her grubby little hands around my neck to give me a cuddle while wiping her snot on my shoulder. Nothing.
And that was the crux of the matter. Something I perhaps naively hadn’t expected to happen to me. Because I’ve always been ambitious. Not ambitious for lots of money or a high ranking job or a super high flying #girlboss kind of career, but ambitious in my own goals for life. Ambitious about my creative projects, even the ones that made me little to no money. Ambitious about ensuring I’m always challenging myself with my work. Ambitious for a career I can grow with and call my own.
And suddenly I wasn’t. Suddenly all I cared about was spending time with my little family. I craved a job that was simple and easy and that I could walk away from and not give a second thought to at the end of the day, that brought in a wage without compromising my time as a Mum. I wasn’t interested in being creative unless it was with my daughter. I found that work was way down on my list of life priorities and blogging simply a time consuming hobby- slash- job that my new lifestyle didn’t allow for.
The old me, the pre – Evie me, started to fade away slightly, and with each passing day I felt less connected with that Jaclyn and that life.
But of course, it was that Jaclyn, that pre-Evie person, that created this blog and had written on it religiously for nine years, and even when I came to terms with my new normal and learned to embrace the parenting lifestyle, I struggled to marry those two people, to figure out which parts of my old life I should prioritise and hold onto. And as a result I found it increasingly difficult to find my blogging voice, to decide which topics I should be focusing on and to decipher a direction that felt relevant to me, while still being interesting to readers.
Perhaps the biggest factor in my lack of blogging motivation.
I just didn’t have any of it any more.
I went from blogging at least once, maybe twice a week to once a month if I was lucky. The windows of time I had free while Evie napped didn’t always feel like my most creative moments and some days I’d find myself armed with my laptop, a cup of tea and a potential 90 minutes of blogging time ahead of me, only to sit staring at the screen for 30 of those minutes not able to find the words, before ultimately procrastinating on ASOS or Instagram until I heard her wake again. Not to mention the days where after a 4am start I simply didn’t have the energy for anything other than shutting my eyes and just fell asleep on the bed next to her the minute I got her down. Other days I’d find the brain capacity to start typing but inevitably be pulled from my train of thought by a needy baby before I could complete the post, and then that half written post would stay in my drafts for months while I struggled to find the time to take photos to go alongside it or to get myself back in the head space to restart where I left off.
In many ways things were a lot easier when she was younger. In those hazy early days, where I was awake half the night anyway and needed something to concentrate on to prevent myself from nodding off while feeding, I’d get my phone out and start writing blog post ideas down in my notes. Some mornings I’d wake to find I’d practically written a whole blog post during the night feeds and often my best creative ideas occurred in the dead of the night. Despite being hugely sleep deprived, I found myself still coming up with ideas regularly and feeling creative in those days. As Evie grew and developed, entertaining and caring for her required more and more of my energy and brainpower and the creativity left me somewhat. In those first six months or so, I probably had a lot more help too – my husband working less to allow me to sleep and function like a normal human being. Grandparents and family visiting regularly to get their fill of newborn baby snuggles. And Evie was young enough that she wasn’t overly aware of who’s chest/arm/neck she was sleeping on. Other than getting her four hourly boob feeds from me, she was content as long as she was being cuddled and burped and rocked to sleep and sung to. And I probably had more moments throughout the day to myself then – working in cafes for a couple of hours or flitting to London for a morning here and there, taking photos upstairs while Granma gazed adoringly at her downstairs or sitting in bed writing blog posts after being ordered to rest by whoever was visiting at the time – than I do now.
As Evie got older, she of course became less of a small baby who was simply happy to be sung to and more of a determined and inquisitive little lady who needed constant entertainment throughout the day. While previously I could have easily answered emails on my phone while she was feeding/asleep on me, now she’d shout at me or pull my phone out of my hand if I picked it up. Suddenly my ‘baby’ was pulling herself up to standing and wanting to ‘walk’ back and forward to the kitchen 300 times a day to look at the washing machine. She’d want me to be involved in her games and playing meaning I couldn’t leave her side most of the day, and I felt like I couldn’t take my eyes off of her as every household object became a deathtrap. The energy required for motherhood had tripled and spending even 10 minutes replying to emails or sitting at my laptop just wasn’t doable anymore.
My – can probably manage to sneak a bit of work in – time went from minimal to non existent.
I can remember one particularly stressful week where my Husband was working away, Evie wasn’t well, wouldn’t be anywhere but in my arms and a few work deadlines were looming over my head. It all got too much, I felt completely overwhelmed and unable to see how I’d possibly manage to ‘do it all’. I couldn’t see a way to strike a balance, I couldn’t figure out a workable routine. And so I didn’t. I passed on a few paid jobs, I asked for extensions on others explaining that my baby was ill and for a few days I concentrated on being a parent and nothing else. I abandoned Instagram, I didn’t look a single email or panic about any deadlines. I was just Evie’s mum, and tried really hard to be in every moment with her. And when I did that, all of the stress just fell away. Parenting was still challenging of course, but without trying to juggle all of the things, I coped with it much better than I previously had been. And I guess I quite liked that feeling. Of not being permanently stressed and anxious and being able to give Evie my all.
Before I knew it those days spent worrying about nothing but Evie became more regular. I took on less work, I concentrated on her more. I accepted that I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to do, that I’d have to pass on events and press days, and that ultimately I’d have to turn down work if it didn’t fit with our schedule/ I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to complete it, without any childcare help.
I started blogging less, giving myself a break if I didn’t want to spend those precious baby free moments at a laptop, and reluctantly began to find I was only making time to write the posts I had to write, the ones I was obligated to write…
Which leads me onto the next reason having a baby made me fall out of love with blogging. I really hate to cite money as a factor in why my blog lost its voice last year, but hey I’d be lying if I didn’t include it.
It’s the thing none of us like to talk about isn’t it? The dirty word in blogging. Because we should all be doing this for the love of it right? Not to earn a living?
Well let me start by saying that I never planned to make money from my blog. I started my blog in 2009 and blogging certainly wasn’t a career option at that point. It was something people did in secret, on the side from a full time job, often anonymously so that their bosses wouldn’t find out. As a fashion intern I wasn’t that mysterious (although I was anonymous in the early years LOL) but it was purely a creative outlet for me. A way to practice my writing and a space to record my life.
When I originally chose to leave a full time job in favour of freelance life, one of the main driving factors was that I knew one day I’d like a family, and I wanted a job that allowed me the flexibility to be a mother and dip in and out of work when and if I needed to. At that time I was focusing more on online PR and social media, and I imagined this type of work to be the perfect thing to do around children. Something I’d ultimately be able to do from home most days, something I could do from any location we ended up residing in, something that would allow me to pick and choose my hours and my workload. I never planned for my blog to be part of that career dream. But as a freelancer you learn to go where the work is, and turning down paid work isn’t something many of us have the luxury to do. In four years of ups and downs, I followed the paths that provided me a decent income, and before I knew it blogging had become a part of that, and paid opportunities something that were worked in to my monthly blog schedule. It was never a full time project for me but when I both became pregnant, and decided to move out of London (rendering a few of my regular freelance gigs no longer do-able) I had to think about which type of work I could realistically continue with through pregnancy and maternity leave and while working from home. I would have been silly not to take advantage of the flexibility that work through my blog afforded me, because ultimately it was an avenue I had full control over. In truth I had started to fall out of love with the type of projects that were coming my way on a freelance basis and had felt the need for a change in direction anyway, so maternity leave seemed like as good a time as any to re-assess. And in the meantime I’d concentrate on the blog and aim to pull a decent income through that until I got back on my feet with my freelance business.
And for the first 9 months or so of Evie’s life, during that ‘maternity period’, I’d say for the most part that worked. I struggled with the juggle, of course, but I was fairly content with how things were going and felt a sense of freedom in not knowing exactly where I wanted my career to go. I didn’t take on any work through my freelance business in that time, not feeling like I could commit to anything regular, so the blog was the only ‘work’ commitment I had to worry about and I was ok with that. I didn’t want to have to worry about work, I didn’t want to feel stressed about when I needed to go back or what I was going to be doing. I just wanted to enjoy my baby.
I think, looking back, the reason I felt like I was doing ok was that the pressure was off. In those first nine months, I was, for all intensive purposes, technically still on maternity leave so I only needed to do as much or as little work as I chose to do. Because I hadn’t expected to earn at all in that time, anything I did earn felt like a bonus, a win, an achievement.
But the latter part of the year felt tougher and the balance I thought I was striking started to tip more in the motherhood direction as Evie began to need me more. When the ‘maternity period’ came to an end, I felt the pressure come back and the need to earn more, do more, figure out where I wanted my career to go was more consuming.
I’d reached a point where I could no longer just be a Mum if I wanted to, I needed to earn. When you have a child to provide for, work takes on a different meaning and I felt a sense of guilt for focusing time on creative projects when I knew that ultimately I just needed to be doing work that kept Evie in nappies and pretty clothes. My blog started to become more and more like a business – a source of income first, a diary second. The pressure to be posting regularly while still staying ‘on brand’, to be mixing paid work up with passion work in a even load, to be maintaining a ‘presence’ on social media daily and everything in-between, started to overwhelm me. And it became hard work.
Because that’s the thing about blogging (and writing/creating content/ whatever the hell I do to make a living) – it’s not an easy path, despite what many might think. It’s not something you can really take a break from, it’s not a job where the money will continue to roll in without you having to put the time in, it’s not something you can dip in and out of. It takes a lot of time and effort, a lot of motivation, it’s expensive to keep up, it requires your sole attention, and it needs you to be ‘on’ 24/7. Often it can feel like you need to put so much in for a very marginal return.
I began to retreat instead of embrace all of that. I found myself posting less than I had when I wasn’t earning that much from my blog, and falling into a trap of thinking ‘I can’t post on Instagram because I don’t have any ‘worthy’ images’. I realised I probably didn’t want to miss out on my daughter’s first smile/ laugh/ steps in favour of being glued to my phone screen.
I don’t believe that a blog can’t be both a personal endeavour and a source of income, that’s absolutely the goal right? But for me, when my blog became my only income source, it changed things. And I’m not sure the change was all that welcomed.
There’s always a worry attached to changing direction with a blog. The worry that those readers you’re currently counting on might not be there for a change in content, might not be willing to stick around if you start regularly harping on about something that isn’t interesting for them. And I think a lot of bloggers must experience this quandary when they have children – do you embrace that change in lifestyle and talk about it as much as feels right to you regardless of whether it loses readers/followers along the way? Or do you stick to your existing content and try not to bombard readers with the elements of life that are perhaps only interesting to you?
And that’s ignoring the moral issue/personal decision of whether they choose to post images/discuss their child online at all?
And I hit a bit of a brick wall with this, and in hindsight made it a bigger problem than it really needed to be. Worried about it more than I should. And as a result I let it affect the way I wrote. I let it interfere with the natural development of my blog and get in the way of what I shared on social media.
We’d decided pretty much from the moment I got pregnant that we didn’t want to post too many images of our child online. I have no judgement towards those that do – it’s an entirely personal decision – but for us it didn’t feel right. Although I’ve chosen to live a life online, our child hadn’t yet and we felt hugely protective of them from the get go. I couldn’t bear the thought of people commenting on their appearance or judging their actions before they were even at an age where they could understand that. We set up a family whatsapp group instead to share plenty of pictures and all agreed to keep the social media sharing minimal.
But my blog was less clean cut. To me my blog wasn’t a frivoilous social media platform, it was my own creative space, a space which I curated and had full control over. Something I was proud of and something that was an artistic project for me. Having always written about every aspect of my life and spilled out my thoughts on here, I didn’t feel I could miss out such a huge piece of my life (having a child) completely from its archives. I decided I’d talk candidly (as I always have) about pregnancy and parenting, talk about my own personal experiences of motherhood, and keep things from my point of view. I’d avoid writing directly about Evie’s personal experiences, not involve her in the blog where it wasn’t neccessary to do so (as in not to become a family/mum blogger) and only share limited creative photography, where I felt it right to do so, that ultimately she’d be ok with when she was older (no naked shots over here!).
And actually, I was ok with that. I didn’t want my blog to change direction purely because I was becoming a mum. I didn’t want to be a ‘Mum blogger’ all of a sudden, and I was certain that I didn’t want her face plastered all over social media. I told myself (and all of you) that things weren’t going to change much, that I’d continue writing about all of the subjects that I’d always written about because those were the subjects I was passionate about.
I guess what I hadn’t really accounted for was how all consuming that first year of motherhood would be. How little time I’d have to dedicate to the things that I had previously been passionate about. And what little desire I’d have to be passionate about those things.
The subjects I’d previously blogged about felt mostly irrelevant to me last year. Fashion? When did I ever get dressed up anymore? Travel? We no longer had the time, money or means to go on regular trips. Food? We never ate out unless it was in a child friendly establishment, and I never had the time to cook or bake. Home? My list of DIY projects and decorating jobs became bigger and bigger and I couldn’t find any time to work through them.
In short, my life became about one thing only; being a parent to Evie. And I found that all of the creative ideas I had, all of the blog post titles that came to me in the middle of the night and the only words that spilled out of my head, were in relation to that.
But instead of simply embracing that, and writing about the things that came naturally to me at that time (in the same way that I had previously with my wedding, my honeymoon, my career), I resisted it. Because hadn’t I said I didn’t want to become a Mum blogger? Hadn’t I told my readers that my subject matter wouldn’t change?
And when I did give in to it and write about parenting/take on projects around motherhood, I struggled with how to write freely and share what I wanted to, without involving Evie too much, without sharing photos of her. Wouldn’t people feel cheated if they came to this post looking for valuable information and found no images that corresponded? Wouldn’t it be strange to talk about a subject and mention my child but not actually show that child?
I flipped between accepting collaborations based on my new parent title and then feeling endlessly guilty that perhaps I’d somehow exploited Evie in the process, to actively avoiding any parenting talk whatsoever and as a result making my blog and social channels look like I didn’t even have a child.
By not embracing this huge change in my life, I started to feel as if the blog was no longer a true representation of who I was. As if I was writing only about very small segments of my life and ignoring a huge chunk of what made up my day to day. And in time, the words needed for those posts, those other subjects, just refused to come.
The comparison trap
Lastly I fell, in a big way, prey to comparing myself to others online. Others who I deemed ‘successful’ in this online/blogging world.
I think Instagram was mainly to blame for this one, and instead of being productive with my time and sticking to my own workload, I started spending too much time scrolling through other people’s content, wondering what I needed to do to get to that stage. How I could be in that same league. What I needed to acheive in order to reach a point of what the internet might deem as life success. So silly when you actually write that out isn’t it?
Our lives are not measured by how many ‘likes’ a photo we put out on the internet gets. Our success should not be intertwined with how good we look in ‘that’ dress or how many followers we have in an app. And yet, it’s something so many of us aspire to. As if our happiness will grow tenfold when we reach this stage.
I felt like I was out of the blogging loop for most of last year because I couldn’t ‘keep up’ with the pace everyone around me seemed to be operating at. I couldn’t commit to events and press days like I had before. I couldn’t blog as regularly, or be on social media 24 hours a day. And I felt like I was getting left behind. I started to get overly consumed with ‘getting back’ – growing my following again, becoming part of the blogging inner circle, maintaining my presence, keeping up with the best of them.
But actually, I was comparing myself to people who were in a completely different lane. People who often were younger or at a entirely different stage in their lives. Who didn’t have my commitments or responsibilities, and who didn’t have a lot of the things that I had. Often we look at other people’s lives and think we want what they have. But you can guarantee that there will be aspects of your life that others perhaps don’t have and wish for. I had a husband, a beautiful daughter, a home. I was intelligent (sort of), I had plenty of work and life experience, and lots to offer.
I was attempting to compete in a race that I didn’t even want to win.
How I’m moving forward
So… what’s next? How do you continue when you’ve fallen out of love with your creative project?
I first started writing this post almost six months ago and at that time, yes, I was pretty close to giving it all up. Calling time on this particular venture and starting afresh with something else. Something that didn’t come with so much pressure, and that didn’t require so much of my time and energy. But something stopped me, like it always does. It all felt too… final. Like a rash decision made during a particularly up in the air period of life which I might regret later.
And I was right.
You’ll probably have noticed that I’ve been taking a bit of a break from blogging this year and not posting as regularly. Part of that was circumstantial. The house move, moving to a new city, finding our feet. My husband working full time again and travelling a lot meant that I have had to take on the bulk of the parenting duties day to day. But part of it was also intentional. I needed to step back from everything and figure out whether I wanted to continue and what I wanted to achieve from the blog. Sometimes you can be so busy just keeping everything afloat that you don’t leave any time for ensuring you’re heading in the right direction. I wanted to let the dust settle slightly, emerge from the baby bubble, get myself through that first year, try and get my brain back in gear and let my ideas and ambitions reform. And I’m glad I did, because recently life has started to take on a sense of normality again. A different normal, but that feeling of my world constantly spinning has begun to dissipate and I can begin to see a clearer path for myself ahead.
Because this blog has been my baby for nine years. When a real baby came along, it got sidelined and I thought that I didn’t need it anymore. But with time I realised that I missed writing everything down. Documenting life’s key moments. Savouring the best bits. I found that I couldn’t work through things as easily without having a space to vent, to outpour. I just needed a bit of time to figure out how to marry that with my new role as a parent, how to make time for both of my babies.
I’d advise anyone not to make any hard and fast decisions in that first year of parenthood. It can be so all consuming. I can’t tell you how many ‘new business venture’ ideas I had in that time, how many – ‘I’m going to jack it all in to do X.Y,Z’ – moments I had. And I’m glad I waited it out to decipher whether they were just pipe dreams/avenues picked because of the huge change in lifestyle I found myself in. I guess having a baby makes you re-evaluate a lot in your life (both men and women). You no longer have the time to do all of the activities you used to so you have to pick and choose which things are important to you. Work often becomes more about what will provide the best life for your child, what allows for a happy family life and what you can do in order to enjoy the most quality time with your little one, and less about those big dreams and ambitions.
I’m glad I gave myself the time to let things plod along for a while, and actually I’ve found that once I got through that tricky first year, life has started to operate at a more manageable pace again and my interest and passion for things other than Evie has returned.
So how am I moving forward?
Well for starters I’m giving myself a break. A big one. Evie is 16 months old, I took a maternity leave, I took things slower for the last year and a half and that’s ok.
I spent so long worrying about getting left behind, about having to keep one foot in the ‘game’ to stay relevant, about ensuring I wasn’t forgotten. But there isn’t a time limit on success, that’s what I’m reminding myself. Does it really matter if I achieve my goals at 17 or 57? Maybe the success I need to concentrate on right now is success as a parent, and feel content in the knowledge that the older Evie gets, the more time I’ll have to pursue my own ambitions and career pinnacles.
I feel ready to up my workload, to step back into a semblance of working life, to be more than just Evie’s Mum, to carve out something for myself again. But I’m also being realistic. And I think I’ve relaxed into this idea of flexible working – earning enough to get by while still focusing on being there for Evie while she’s little – and don’t feel such a need to push myself to the point of stress, or achieve all of my goals right this second.
As far as the blog itself goes, I’m staying fairly open to what direction it will take from here and want to allow it to evolve in a natural way. But I have made three pretty big decisions;
The first is that the blog in its current set up no longer works for me. I’ve changed and my lifestyle has changed too much and I can no longer continue to write on a platform that doesn’t feel like me anymore. The Bumpkin Betty name/ persona, as much as I’m attached to it, no longer fits with the life I lead, the type of content I want to write and the more professional direction I want to pursue. It feels too young, too circa 2009 blogging, too unprofessional, and too wrapped up in a previous life and a redundant way of blogging. It simply has to go.
I need a space that can represent who I am, and all that I do. All of my many facets from the professional to the personal. A space that allows my creativity to flourish and gives me room to explore different avenues and see which route grows. Up until now I’ve always kept my freelance work and my blog seperate. I had a website for my work and a blog for my personal. Depending on who I was talking to, where I was, which email the work proposition came to, I’d be either one or the other. And most of the time, I kept whichever wasn’t relevant out of the correspondence as it felt simpler and cleaner to do so. Over the last couple of years however I’ve felt the two merge, the lines blur and I no longer feel the need to keep them from each other. I want to be able to go where my work takes me and not feel like I have to make a decision of one path or the other. It makes sense to create an online space that can house everything I do.
So a re-design was needed. That decision was made back in January but it’s only now, at the end of July that I’m getting started on that. But hey, that’s real life. I had to save up (it’s an expensive business) and I also wanted to take time to figure out what I wanted from the re-design and website as a whole, and ensure I got it right. The last thing I wanted was to throw money at something and then change my mind again in a few months time.
But now that things are moving, I feel really happy about the new direction I’m taking and excited to start building things up again. Bumpkin Betty is no more, and Jaclyn Ruth will emerge in its place. I love my new stylish logo and have had some great professional imagery taken. And best of all, the website design is going to represent me and my life and be somewhere I can be proud to create on again.
The second decision I’ve made is that I don’t want my blog to be my only source of income. I don’t want to focus on it full time or for that to be my main career avenue. And I don’t think it would be realistic or healthy for me to pursue that anyway. It works for many but it didn’t work for me. Ultimately I think the age of earning a living from blogging alone is coming to an end and I don’t have the desire/motivation to grow my social media following to the point required in order to make money from this industry. I’ve always been a personal lifestyle blogger, and I want to continue to write about my life, my feelings and my inner most thoughts, and realistically that type of writing isn’t conducive to earning money from your blog in today’s age.
I think often we can follow a dream, thinking it’s the right thing for us, but only in doing so do we realise we were chasing something that we didn’t really want in the first place. I can’t tell you there won’t be a single sponsored post or instagram from this point on, because a girls gotta eat (and by eat I mean shop the sales) but I don’t want to be in a position where I’m relying on those posts as my sole income and fall into a trap of prioritising paid posts so much that I don’t have the time to focus on the personal posts. I want this blog to feel like my diary again, I want the freedom to post/not post, write about anything and everything and feel less pressure to do things in a certain way.
And I want to do other things too. I miss being a jack of all trades with a varied workload, and often I feel pigeon holed by the subjects within my blog. Up until maternity leave, I’d always worked on a range of freelance projects as well as writing my blog and I think that suited me. There are a few things I used to do as part of my freelance work that I’ll no longer be continuing with, simply as I’ve either moved on from that or because they don’t fit around being a parent, but I’m keen to build up my portfolio of work once again, pursue various avenues on a freelance basis and see where they take me. By taking the blog back to the personal slightly, and creating a website that can be home to all of my endeavours, both current and future, I feel as if I’ll allow myself the room to do that.
As for blog content, I’m going to relax a little and try to just write about the things that come to me at any given time, and worry less about whether they are on brand or on schedule or if by doing so I’ll alienate existing readers. The thing that always drew me to a blog was that it was my space to do as I wished with, and while I’m keen to write about subjects that people want to read, I also need to remember to write for myself first and foremost. I’m going to embrace more of the elements that make up my daily life right now and not shy away from parenting content or posts about family life. And while I still won’t be sharing lots of images of Evie online, I feel more at ease with the idea of writing about my experiences as a Mum and my personal thoughts on bringing up our little lady.
Thankfully I’ve found that the passion for some of those other aspects is coming back too and I hope that I can also return to talking about subjects such as fashion, food and travel, but instead of writing about them in the way I did previously, I’ll be writing about them from the point of view of a busy, tired Mum and creating my own personal niche within this internet space.
Lastly, I’ve made the decision that I’m simply not going to be part of the blogging rat race anymore. I don’t want to be, and it serves no purpose for me to attempt to keep up with people half my age who are not only focusing on a entirely different audience but chasing a different future. I’m too old and too sensible to get swept up in that and actually when I really thought about it, I didn’t truly want any of the end outcomes that race leads to, because it’s not relevant to my life and not where I want to be. I feel much more content at the idea of blogging regularly again when I’m NOT worrying about what everyone else is doing, what I should be doing and whether I’m ‘keeping up’.
I don’t want to go on an exotic trip with a bunch of other bloggers who are far more beautiful and famous and look better in a bikini, while being away from my family. I’d much rather spend my own money on travelling with my own people and write about my experiences in my own way.
I don’t want to model for a fashion brand or be the face of a haircare brand (clearly this would never happen anyway as I have neither the body, face or confidence to do so but you get my drift – I don’t seek those results), I don’t want to sell clothes by taking daily photos of myself (I do want to share my personal style but that’s somewhat different to me) or talk to a camera every day about my make up routine. I want to write, I want to take pretty photographs, create interesting content, and largely stay behind the scenes. I want to inspire not influence. And I want to write online as if I’m talking to old friends, feel part of a like minded community and pursue dreams that aren’t linked to my Instagram follower count.
So that’s what I’m going to do.
I hope you’ll stick around for this next chapter and I can’t wait to venture down this new road, even if it’s slow, slightly uneven and largely unknown.
See you on the flip side folks.